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Yellowjackets fall to defending champs

The Perham/New York Mills girls tennis team receives their Section 8A runner up trophy after participating in their first Section 8A Championship. Jason Groth/FOCUS

FARGO, N.D. -- In the end, it was experience that prevailed when the defending Section 8A champion Roseau defeated the Perham/New York Mills girls tennis team 6-1 on Oct. 13 at Courts Plus.

The Section 8A championship appearance was the first for the Yellowjackets program, while the Rams, with nine seniors, were right at home.

“We have nothing to be ashamed of. I thought we came ready and were prepared. We just lost to a better team,” Perham/New York Mills head coach Jameson Miller said. “Jeff (Swanson) does a tremendous job up there. Our girls battled them tooth and nail. It’s just unfortunate that we came up a little short. We have nothing to hold our heads down about.”

Makayla Melvin

The Yellowjackets got their lone point at No. 2 doubles behind the play of Jade Lenius and Kiera Radniecki. They earned a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Roseau’s Ellice Murphy and Kiana Flaig.

It was the final team matches for three Perham seniors, Brianna Schwantz, Makayla Melvin and Elle Birkeland. Schwantz and Melvin have been longtime members of the team, while Birkeland joined the team last year. All three said it was a tough loss, but they had a great season.

They have been anchor members on a team that has had little postseason success in the past. Last year, the Yellowjackets could not get out of the first round, but this year they made school history, participating in the first section final for the tennis program.

“I was here since seventh grade and we lost every single match and we were horrible,” Melvin said. “But to see how far we have come is just amazing and the best part to me.”

Brianna Schwantz

The success of the program in 2017 has turned some heads in the school. The Yellowjackets finished the year with a 13-6 dual meet record, which featured an eight-match winning streak.

“It’s awesome to get Perham tennis out there,” Schwantz said. “We have been hearing it around in the schools and people are acknowledging it now. It feels good.”

Roseau’s Jodi Ostroski earned a 6-2, 6-2 victory over Melvin at No. 1 singles. Lauren Johnson defeated Schwantz at No. 2 singles, 6-4, 6-3. Kate Wensloff knocked off Michelle Swyter, 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. Roseau’s Lindsay McFarlane defeated Avery Beachy, 6-0, 6-2, at No. 4 singles.

Kacie Bjerk and Haley Ostgaard defeated Jojo Winkels and Birkeland at No.1 doubles, 6-3, 6-3. Bria Dale and Grace Walsh were victorious in straight sets over Grace Minten and Emma Bowers, 7-5, 6-4.

Melvin, Schwantz and Birkeland were key leaders for the program, helping Perham/NYM reach new heights. But, they were quick to credit past players for helping build the program.

“We have had great teams and this is one of my favorite teams that I have been on,” Melvin said. “But, all the past people such as Josie Beachy and Danielle Graham and others helped build this program.”

The Yellowjackets will return several key members from their 13-win squad and put the pressure on the Rams next season.

Elle Birkeland

“This is a heck of a season. I know I have a lot of memories and I hope the girls do, too,” Miller said. “We accomplished a lot more than we could have imagined at the beginning of the year during that first week. We knew we had potential, but I thought we came really, really close to reaching our max.”

Melvin and Schwantz still have matches left, as they will be competing in the Section 8A individual singles event, while the doubles teams of Winkels/Birkeland and Lenius/Swyter are left in the individual doubles event which continued on Oct. 13 and 14.

Jason Groth

 Groth is a Minnesota Newspaper Association award-winning Sports Editor of the Perham Focus and the Wadena Pioneer Journal. Groth worked in Grand Rapids as the Sports Director at KOZY/KMFY radio for two years and prior to that he was the Sports Editor/Writer for the Grand Rapids Herald-Review for seven years. 

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